The Dollhouse

  • by Fiona Davis
  • Narrated by Tavia Gilbert
  • 9 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

"The Dollhouse... That's what we boys like to call it.... The Barbizon Hotel for Women, packed to the rafters with pretty little dolls. Just like you."
Fiona Davis' stunning debut novel pulls listeners into the lush world of New York City's glamorous Barbizon Hotel for Women, where in the 1950s a generation of aspiring models, secretaries, and editors lived side by side while attempting to claw their way to fairy-tale success, and where a present-day journalist becomes consumed with uncovering a dark secret buried deep within the Barbizon's glitzy past.
When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong - a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance.
Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo, and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist - not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Lifetime Movie in Book Form

Any additional comments?

I read/listen to 2-3 books a week, so I have sort of developed a way to categorize books after finishing them:

- waste of time
- worth a read but not for a whole credit (buy it on sale)
- solid book worth a credit
- worth a credit and telling friends about

I feel like this one falls into the 'buy it on sale' category. Interesting history, but not an experienced author and it showed. There were a few plot points that I felt weren't explained (can't elaborate without spoiling), and times that felt very 'Lifetime' for me, meaning silly/trivial misunderstandings creating the main obstacles for the characters. There were also parts that seemed to have no purpose - no character development, furthering of story, etc.
Would be a fine listen if you have a long drive - but wait until it's on sale.

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- chelsie

Listenable but got progressively more ridiculous

First I had to get past the voice performer. Tavia Gilbert does excellent and distinct character voices, but the two main characters she performs (Rose in the present and Darby in '52) were a tiny bit overwrought. But I hung in there figuring I'd get used to it, and I did. All the other characters were performed really well.

Then the story itself gets progressively more unbelievable as the book progresses. I might have been more inclined to suspend disbelief if I had liked the two main characters. I feel like I should have liked them but instead found them a little insipid. Way too many tangled romances going on, way too much naïve "country bumpkinness," way too much of women who have zero self-confidence and kind of despise themselves.

The book had enough going for it to keep me listening (I like the structure of a person in the present trying to solve a mystery in the past--and you get both POVs) and I won't return it, but it was ok at best. The publisher calls this a "stunning debut." In no universe could this be considered "stunning." Granted, I think there are people far less critical than I who will really enjoy it, but "stunning" is stunning hyperbole!

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- NMwritergal

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-23-2016
  • Publisher: Penguin Audio